Subject: AFP: Little progress on Suharto era abuses in Indonesia: HRW

Agence France Presse -- English

January 12, 2007

Little progress on Suharto era abuses in Indonesia: HRW

JAKARTA, Jan 12 2007

Indonesia has made little progress in addressing human rights crimes committed during the rule of former dictator Suharto, US-based Human Rights Watch said.

"No charges have been brought against the former president for human rights violations committed during his more than three decades of power, or for the violence instigated by pro-Suharto forces in a failed attempt to stave off his 1998 fall from power, the New York-based rights watchdog said in its annual report released Thursday.

Suharto ruled Indonesia with an iron grip until he stepped down amid mounting unrest in 1998. More than 1,000 people died in riots which devastated the capital Jakarta.

Now 85, Suharto has also escaped trial for massive corruption, with the attorney-general's office abandoning its pursuit of him last year on health grounds.

Human Rights Watch said Indonesia had also failed to bring to justice those responsible for an orgy of violence by pro-Jakarta militias in East Timor after it voted for independence.

"Despite significant international pressure and interest, trials of senior Indonesian officers at an ad hoc human rights court in Jakarta have failed to give a credible judicial accounting for atrocities committed in East Timor in 1999," it said.

The rights court set up to try military officers and officials was widely condemned as a sham. A militia leader, Eurico Guterres, is the sole person serving a jail term for his role.

Human Rights Watch also expressed concern over the slow pace of reform of the military, which is accused of running its own sometimes illicit cash-generating businesses and rights abuses.

"The Indonesian military continues to raise money outside the government budget through a sprawling network of legal and illegal businesses, by providing paid services, and through acts of corruption such as mark-ups in military purchases," it said.

"This self-financing undermines civilian control, contributes to abuses of power by the armed forces, and impedes reform."

The rights watchdog also expressed concern about the more than one million Indonesians, mostly women, who work abroad mainly as domestic workers.

It said migrant domestic workers commonly become heavily indebted to pay exorbitant recruitment agency fees and many receive little or incorrect information about the terms of their employment.

"In the worst cases, such conditions contribute to making the migrants vulnerable to even more egregious abuses abroad, including forced labour, debt bondage, and human trafficking," it said.

See Human Rights Watch World Report 2006: East Timor; Indonesia

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